To jubilation in the sold-out grandstands the British Olympic Gold medallist has now won the most number of LGCT Grand Prix ever.
Piloting the 9 year old gelding Hello Mr President, Scott delivered a breathtaking performance in front of his home crowd, taking his eleventh LGCT Grand Prix win ahead of Peder Fredricson (SWE) and Ludger Beerbaum (GER). Ludger now joins the illustrious line up of show jumping superstars for Longines Global Champions Tour Super Grand Prix at the GC Playoffs.
Scott has taken his second win of the 2018 season and has shot back up to sixth on the overall ranking as the Championship accelerates to the season finale, with the potential to realise his hope of securing a never-before achieved third title.
Ben Maher (GBR) has extended his overall ranking lead, with a points tally of 270 in total, now 38 points from his closest rival. Harrie Smolders (NED) keeps hold of second with 234 points overall, and Edwina Tops-Alexander (AUS) keeps third with a score of 212.
It was a quintessentially British scene as Royal Hospital Chelsea played host to the world’s greatest show jumpers. Families enjoyed top sport and a thrilling display by the Household Cavalry Musical Ride adding to the patriotic atmosphere at the beautiful venue.
Guests from around the world, including Bill Gates and Bruce Springsteen, applauded the veterans, known as the Chelsea Pensioners who once again joined the prize-giving ceremony adding to the emotional scenes around the arena. And Rory Bremner entertained spectators with an impromptu performance of his top impressions in the live GC TV studio. British brands such as HR Owen Bentley were also at the event and the victorious London Knights team were earlier paraded around the arena in a special sporty Bentley Supersports GTC to the delight of fans.
Uliano Vezzani set a big track for today’s LGCT Grand Prix of London – full height at the maximum 1.60m and requiring scopey horses who took a lot of care when they reached the fences. A delicate Sapinda vertical as well as a “Big Ben” winged skinny required absolute precision, with an imposing Longines treble set towards the in-gate asked complete focus, power and care in equal measure. The last line gave the option of six or seven strides, giving riders the choice best suited to their horses.
First to go Scott Brash (GBR) had all the pressure on his shoulders – the 2017 LGCT Grand Prix of London winner this time riding his enthusiastic 9 year old gelding Hello Mr President, and watched by owners Lady Harris and Lady Kirkham. And the “Iceman” delivered, the epitome of grace under pressure with fans on the edge of their seats as they willed their home rider to a clear, and the young horse responding magnificently to Brash’s careful requests.
He was quickly joined by multiple Olympic gold medallist Ludger Beerbaum who piloted Casello around the sand arena – the experienced 15 year old gelding jumping the course with ease to go clear. Ludger opened him up down the last line to get the six strides making it a very different horse into the jump-off compared to Scott’s younger gelding.
There was heartbreak for Maurice Tebbel (GER) the talented rider jumped the whole round foot perfect with Don Diarado but unfortunately the last fence went down. Similarly there was disappointment for Alberto Zorzi (ITA), last weekend’s winner of the LGCT Grand Prix of Berlin, the Italian picking up a disappointing twelve faults.
Mid-way through and there are only two clears so far, a testiment to the challenge set for the world’s best show jumpers.
Fans were thrilled with a second clear round for the United Kingdom after Michael Whitaker (GBR) jumped a brilliant zero fault round on the nine year old El Wee Widge. He really had to push to the last fence and was very close to having the back rail but cleared it putting a Whitaker into the jump-off.
Speaking after his round, a smiling Michael said: “I won’t be giving this horse back [to son Jack]. He had a hesitation to fence four, but he was brilliant so I can’t complain! It’s exciting to be in the jump-off, for a change!”
Peder Fredricson (SWE) who has already qualified for the Longines Global Champions Tour Super Grand Prix, jumped a very smooth clear round with his Cannes winning mount Hansson WL, raising the stakes for the jump-off where he would be joined by Denis Lynch (IRL) and RMF Echo.
British fans roared their approval as young star Harry Charles (GBR) produced an incredible clear with Abc Quantum Cruise, the 19 year old talent making his first appearance on the Longines Global Champions Tour and delivering superbly. The temperatures soared as Ben Maher (GBR) joined those through, the chestnut gelding Explosion W jumping his heart out for the LGCT ranking leader.
Final rider to go, Eric Lamaze (CAN) pulled out all the stops with Chacco Kid, the duo looked on top form, but a single pole ruled them out of a place into the seven-rider jump-off, and Maher in pole position as last to go.
Scott Brash (GBR) returned to the ring with the eager Hello Mr President, the pair setting off at a gallop as silence dropped around the arena. Brash gave it his all, riding Hello Mr President magnificently to deliver yet another clear, taking a chance at the last, but stopping the clock in 38.88s and setting the pace for those behind him.
Multiple Olympian Ludger Beerbaum (GER) flew around the arena with Casello, but the pair couldn’t match the British rider’s time and finished a couple of seconds down in 41.15s. British hopes were dashed after Michael Whitaker (GBR) clipped a pole with El Wee Widge, and then it started to unravel as the “Big Ben” fence fell, with the pair finishing on 12 faults.
Peder Fredricson (SWE) pulled out all the stops with Hansson WL, matching Scott on turns and strides. But his horse was not as naturally quick as Hello Mr President, and he had to settle for second with a time of 39.84s. Poles down for Denis Lynch and Harry Charles ruled them out of contention, with all eyes turning to Ben Maher (GBR) to see if history would repeat his and Scott’s showdown from 2017.
Ben’s chestnut horse Explosion W jumped the course effortlessly, fast across the ground and up on time. But the penultimate fence tumbled, as the crowd groaned, and the pair finished off the podium despite clocking an impressive time of 38.82s, agonisingly quick enough to have taken the win.
So it would be a British win, with Scott Brash (GBR) taking his second LGCT Grand Prix of the season and handing Ludger Beerbaum a coveted ticket to the GC Prague Playoffs where he will compete in the Longines Global Champions Tour Super Grand Prix.
The LGCT now looks to it’s spiritual home, Valkenswaard, The Netherlands, for the 14th leg of the Championship race.